Though sister companies -- both Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International are owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited -- Celebrity and Royal Caribbean offer very different cruise experiences. Royal Caribbean has lower-priced entry-level cabins, larger ships, more emphasis on family travel and less emphasis on service, while Celebrity has slightly higher priced entry-level rooms and more emphasis on a refined experience and good service. But pricing and service aren't the only differentiators. To help you decide which cruise line is the right fit for you, Cruise Critic pits the two against each other -- the only winner, however, is you when you pick the line that best fits your needs.

In a Nutshell

Celebrity Cruises

Fashionable cruise line with emphasis on trendy culinary experiences, hi-tech educational workshops (think Mac tutorials) and a modern onboard vibe


Royal Caribbean International

Family-oriented cruise line that focuses on the "wow" factor through high-tech entertainment and activities, plus a large selection of free and for-fee dining choices


Compare by: Fleet | Pricing | Demographics | Itineraries | Cabins | Dining | Pool Deck Fun | Sports Deck Fun | Indoor Fun | Nightlife | Family Focus | Tradition vs Innovation

Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

Celebrity Century (Photo:Celebrity Cruise Lines)

Celebrity Cruises

  • 13 ships (14 by end of 2020)
  • Oldest in the fleet: Celebrity Millennium (2000), Celebrity Infinity (2001)
  • Smallest: Celebrity Xploration (16 passengers), Celebrity Xpedition (48 passengers), Celebrity Flora (100 passengers), Celebrity Constellation and Celebrity Infinity (2,170 passengers)
  • Largest: Celebrity Reflection (3,030 passengers)
  • All ships, except Celebrity Flora, Xpedition and Xploration fit into one of three classes: Millennium, Solstice or Edge Class

Royal Caribbean International

  • 27 ships by end of 2020, seven built before 2000
  • Oldest in the fleet: Empress of the Seas (1990), Majesty of the Seas (1992)
  • Smallest: Empress of the Seas (1,602 passengers), Grandeur of the Seas (1,992), Rhapsody of the Seas (1,998 passengers)
  • Largest: Oasis Class (5,400 to 5,518 passengers) – Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas

Pricing

Individual Booking Cruise on Travel Website (Photo: PKpix/Shutterstock)

Celebrity Cruises

  • Tiered pricing model for all cabin categories (except inside rooms) that allow cruisers to choose up to four inclusions (beverage package, free Internet, included gratuities or onboard credit)
  • Prices, in general, are a tad higher than for most mainstream cruise lines (Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean) and do not vary greatly across fleet
  • All entertainment included, except the occasional reservation-only themed parties
  • Most alternative restaurants incur an extra fee

Royal Caribbean International

  • Prices on newest ships are significantly higher than prices for rest of the fleet
  • Last minute discounts available only on short (four nights or less) sailings
  • Cruise fares inclusive of nearly half of the line's alternative restaurants
  • All entertainment included, except lunch- and dinner-theater shows
  • Prices for cruises on Empress of the Seas include a free Bloody Mary or Mimosa at the daily brunch

Demographics

How to Make Friends on a Cruise (Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

Celebrity Cruises View Celebrity Cruises Roll Calls >>

  • Couples and groups of friends ages 35 to 70s
  • Some families during holidays and peak travel times
  • Median age is mid 40s to early 50s

Royal Caribbean International View Royal Caribbean Roll Calls >>

  • Families, plus couples and solo travelers in their 30s to 50s
  • Median age is low 40s, but is slightly lower on shorter cruises and somewhat higher on cruises of 10 nights or more

Itineraries/Destinations/Homeports

Beyond the Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda (Photo: instacruising/Shutterstock)

Celebrity Cruises View Celebrity Cruises Itineraries >>

  • Sails out of eight homeports on the North American mainland, varying by season, with no ship stationed year-round at a single port
  • Offers seasonal Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Alaska, Hawaii, New England/Canada and Europe itineraries
  • Exotic itineraries visit Australia, Asia, South America, South Pacific and the Middle East
  • Offers soft adventure sailings to the Galapagos Islands on Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Xpedition and Celebrity Xploration

Royal Caribbean International View Royal Caribbean Itineraries >>

  • Sails from 14 homeports on the North American mainland regularly, if not always year-round
  • Offers Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii itineraries
  • Cruises in Europe nine months out of the year, including Baltic, Northern Europe and Mediterranean cruises from several ports throughout the continent
  • Sails ships year-round in Australia and Asia
  • Exotic itineraries visit South America, the Middle East and the South Pacific

Cabins

Celebrity Cruises

  • Extensive selection of room categories with more than 20 varieties of cabins to choose from on all ships except the Galapagos-based Xpedition ships
  • Comprehensive suite privileges on all ships (except expedition vessels) include priority boarding and disembarking, access to a suites-only dining room, reserved theater seating on Evening Chic nights, access to Michael's Club Lounge or the Retreat Lounge and free laundry two times per cruise; highest suite categories also include unlimited dining in all specialty restaurants, free Internet and a free premium beverage package for all passengers in the suite
  • Offers a spa-inspired AquaClass selection of cabins (on all ships except expedition vessels) that come with unlimited access to the Relaxation Room (Solstice-class only) and Persian Garden thermal suite, as well as exclusive access to Blu, a health-centric alternative restaurant; other amenities include daily delivery of flavored teas, a pillow menu, upgraded bath toiletries and an expanded room service breakfast menu
  • Limited family choices include connecting rooms and oversized ocean-view or balcony rooms with space for up to five

Royal Caribbean International

  • Offers a large selection of cabin categories from less than 10 types on the smallest ship to more than 20 (including sub-categories) on the largest ships
  • High-tech cabin options include Virtual Balcony inside cabins, with giant TV screens that give the impression of floor-to-ceiling windows (on select ships only)
  • Comprehensive suite privileges on all ships except Oasis- and Quantum-class vessels include priority boarding and disembarking, reserved theater seating and VIP pool seating where available; Royal Suite Class (only on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships) is a tiered suite perks program that offers even more privileges
  • Ships feature some of the largest suites in the mainstream cruise category, including some duplex choices
  • Family cabin options include adjacent rooms with connecting doors, as well as oversized cabins with full baths

Dining

Celebrity Cruises

  • Offers fixed (same time, same tablemates) and flexible Celebrity Select dining options
  • Provides three to six specialty restaurants per ship (depending on vessel), with only a handful included in the cruise fare
  • One ship, Celebrity Edge, provides four main dining restaurants through which you can cycle to try a variety of cuisines for no additional charge
  • At least one Evening Chic night per sailing requiring cruisers to dress up for dinner (or dine in the buffet and alternative restaurants where casual dress is acceptable)

Royal Caribbean International

  • Offers fixed dining, as well as the flexible My Time Dining option
  • Vast array of alternative restaurants with a few included in the cruise fare, such as Sorrento's pizzeria and the Cafe Promenade
  • Has two celebrity chef partnerships: Michael Swartz helped create the menu for 150 Central Park (Oasis-class ships only) and Jamie Oliver created a dining venue (Jamie's Italian) for two Quantum-class ships and Harmony of the Seas
  • At least one formal night per cruise requiring passengers to dress up for dinner (or dine in the buffet where casual dress is acceptable)

Pool Deck Fun

The H2O Zone on Oasis of the Seas

Celebrity Cruises

  • All ships have two to three pools (except the Galapagos-based Xpedition ships), with one always on the main pool deck (most ships have two pools here) and one in the adults-only Solarium; all ships have multiple whirlpools with some in the Solarium
  • Select Solstice-class ships have a Wet Zone vertical fountain splash area for kids
  • The pool deck is primarily for lounging and not poolside fun

Royal Caribbean International

  • All ships feature at least two pools, with some having three or four
  • FlowRider surf simulator is available on 15 ships, while the kids' H2O Zone or Splashaway Bay is on 12
  • Six ships have two or more water slides with more vessels getting them over the next several years
  • Poolside fun might include pool volleyball or sexiest man and belly flop competitions
  • Adults-only Solarium offers a quiet sun deck alternative

Sports Deck Fun

Sports Court on Navigator of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Celebrity Cruises

  • Most ships have basketball courts and a half-ship jogging track
  • All Solstice-class ships feature The Lawn Club, a massive Central Park-style real grass space, with lawn bowling and bocce
  • Three Solstice-class ships feature hot glass demonstrations and classes in a covered area of The Lawn Club

Royal Caribbean International

  • All ships in the fleet have basketball courts and rock-climbing walls; most also have mini-golf courses
  • The three Quantum-class ships have indoor skydiving; the four Oasis-class ships have zip lines

Indoor Fun

Independence of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Celebrity Cruises

  • Daily schedules might include trivia, dance classes, bingo, wine tastings and themed lectures
  • Most ships feature the iLounge, where cruisers can take one of 18 classes on website creation, blogging, photoshop and other computer skills
  • Two Solstice-class ships feature The Art Studio on the Lawn Club where passengers can take art classes like jewelry making, sketching and painting

Royal Caribbean International

  • Daily schedules might include trivia, bingo, dance classes, scrapbooking sessions, napkin- or towel-folding demonstrations and jewelry-making classes
  • Twelve ships have an indoor ice skating rink
  • On Oasis-, Quantum-, Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, the Promenade is the place to check out the shops or grab a bite to eat or a drink to sip while people-watching
  • The four Quantum-class ships feature the SeaPlex, an indoor activity hub with bumper cars, roller skating, trapeze classes and an arcade

Nightlife

The Eden Experience (Photo: Ashley Kosciolek/Cruise Critic)

Celebrity Cruises

  • Main theater entertainment includes musical revue-style song-and-dance shows, Cirque du Soleil-inspired acrobatic shows and one-off comedy and magic acts
  • Nightly live music in multiple venues, as well as DJ'd dance parties
  • Ships with The Lawn Club offer an outdoor once-per-cruise jazz concert under the stars
  • All Millennium-class ships offer "A Taste of Film," an outdoor dinner and film experience
  • Celebrity Edge features Eden, a three-level spiral dining venue, bar and performance art space that offers a surreal, dreamlike experience once the sun goes down

Royal Caribbean International

  • Seven ships offer Broadway (or London West End) shows: Anthem of the Seas ("We Will Rock You"), Oasis of the Seas ("Cats"), Liberty of the Seas ("Saturday Night Fever"), Allure of the Seas ("Mamma Mia"), Symphony of the Seas ("Hairspray") and Independence of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas (both have "Grease")
  • Evening entertainment on all ships include musical revue-style song-and-dance shows, as well as occasional acts by comedians and magicians
  • Select Vision- and Radiance-class ships feature evening aerial shows in the atrium
  • Oasis-class ships feature gravity-defying AquaTheater diving and acrobatic performances
  • Quantum-class ships feature Two70, a multistory lounge and performance space showcasing spectacular shows combining digital visuals with music, dancing and acrobatics
  • Bar choices include the nautically inspired Schooner Bar, perfect for pre-dinner drinks (or post-dinner piano singalongs), as well as the Latin-infused Boleros, the onboard spot for salsa dancing and mojito sipping
  • All ships have nighttime dance clubs

Family Focus

X Club on Celebrity Solstice (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Family Cruise Reviews>>

  • Camp at Sea (not available on expedition ships) comprises three age-specific subgroups for children aged 3 to 5, 6 to 9 and 10 to 12
  • X-Club is for teens ages 13 to 17 (not available on expedition ships)
  • For-fee group babysitting is available for children ages 12 months and older (not available on expedition ships)
  • Limited selection of family-friendly cabin choices

Royal Caribbean International Royal Caribbean Family Cruise Reviews>>

  • Genuinely family-friendly
  • Kids club spaces for smaller kids, tweens and teens
  • With My Family Time Dining, children ages 3 to 11 are served their meals first and then picked up by kids club crew so parents can enjoy the remainder of dinner kids-free
  • Select ships feature the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery for babies ages 6 to 36 months; there is a fee for daytime and nighttime drop-off sessions
  • Pre-order baby food, diapers, wipes and cream through the Babies 2 Go program
  • Large choice of family-friendly cabin configurations

Tradition vs Innovation

Celebrity Cruises

  • Values sophisticated cruise traditions including dining room dress codes, personal service and formal dress-up evenings; innovations come through onboard brand partnerships like Canyon Ranch

Royal Caribbean International

  • Known for its innovations with first-at-sea attractions including rock-climbing walls, ice and roller skating rinks, the FlowRider surf simulator and vertical tube skydiving, among others